I’m enjoying Jessie Donovan’s Stonefire British Dragons series. The books are fun and flighty, and you know me and my dragons. Love. In the fourth installment, Healed by the Dragon, Arabella is a female dragon shifter who was captured and tortured by dragon hunters as a teen (they also killed her mother, so she has some major scars—and not just the ones on her face). She hides away for a decade, afraid of her dragon and everyone else until the leader of a neighboring dragon clan swoops in to win her heart and give her an HEA. The moral of the story, beyond that most paranormal fantasy usually ends with a happily ever after, is that everything we need to heal the past can be found in the present.
According to Jessie Donovan (and me) it’s not necessary to relive the past in order to heal it. The Universe gives us opportunities in the present to repair the damage – and, if we’re willing to take the other steps necessary to move toward— freedom from the bondage of that which we cannot change.
Because we can’t. We can’t go back and either undo or redo the past—it’s over. And whatever happened there has made us who we are today, for better and for worse. Somehow, and in some way, we must come to terms with whatever trauma or loss or lack that we endured, and find a way to accept it. We must also accept that no matter what, there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.
There is a lot to do to heal our past. None of it, however, requires that we relive it over and over again. Instead, we must grieve. When we survive terrible experiences, whether they are physical, emotional or psychological (or all of the above), we must grieve the death of the person we were or could have been.
I look back now and wonder how much pain and suffering I could have avoided if my mother hadn’t been a narcissist who was essentially incapable of loving me. Who could I have been with support and encouragement as a child—someone who experienced love and security and a sense that all was right in the world? I have no idea. I suspect that I would have been, could have been, should have been amazing. Happy. Content. Compassionate (towards myself). I was none of those things then and for a long time afterward.
I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I was a damaged, anxious, defensive, distrustful child, teen and new adult. I had to accept that and grieve the person I coulda, shoulda, woulda been before I could rebuild a life for myself and experience all of those beautiful moments I missed growing up. I had to accept that this was my path—harder than those of some, infinitely easier than that of many.
The second requirement for healing the past in the present is forgiveness. We must forgive those who harmed us, and we must forgive ourselves for being harmed. I know we’re not supposed to blame the victim—especially when we are that victim—but we do, and we must stop. We blame the Other or the Universe for bad acts, but we blame ourselves for not avoiding them, or not getting through it all with less damage, or not getting over it quickly. All of this must be forgiven if we are to move forward. Tough stuff.
And lastly, if we are to have a real shot at healing the past, we need to take a leap of faith. It is my belief that for all of us who need to heal, there is an underlying belief that the past is the future. Somewhere deep inside we believe that the past is a predictor of the future. If it happened once it will happen again, and perhaps again after that. So unless we willingly suspend disbelief and trust that the present and the future need not be a repeat of the past, we will never be truly healed. No matter how good things get. Because we will be so hyper-vigilant watching for that other shoe, or Damocles’ damn sword, or sharks falling out of tornados on top of us that we cannot truly enjoy any healing that might occur.
Once all of that work is done, then it’s time to allow ourselves to be vulnerable again. This is the hardest part of all. Because, in truth, we are always vulnerable. But we deny this truth and instead seek to protect ourselves by bracing for and expecting the worst. In our damaged minds we believe that by hardening our hearts, they will never be broken again. But the truth is that we stayed broken because our hearts never healed and so we were never whole. If we can soften and open and receive, it’s true that we might get hurt again, but the alternative is to stay hurt to the point where we convince ourselves we no longer feel the pain. This is a dangerous delusion.
Like Arabella in Healing the Dragon, the only way out is through. Through the fear and the potential suffering to the joy on the other side. That way through is what allows us to be open to the explore experiences that heal—to be the parents to our children that we never had. To be the loving partner that we always wanted to attract. To give our all to a worthy cause or take a leap towards a new career, lifestyle, location, whatever. But all of this must come after the grief, and the forgiveness and acceptance of our own vulnerability.
It’s not enough to rewrite our present in words and scenes that salve our past wounds. That is necessary but not sufficient. In order to truly experience and benefit from the present healing the past, we must accept, grieve and forgive. And then open ourselves to new experiences that reorder our thinking and our lives for the better. A tall order. But if the dragon can do it, so can I.